April 11, 2012

POLICY: The Never-Ending Oil Debate

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With Gaddafi gone, many have wondered what will happen to the US relations with Libya and how it would affect our dependence on foreign oil.Well for one, as a nation we would finally uphold President Bush’s highly criticized comment of “not on my watch.” We’d also lock down something far more lucrative and valuable to our country: oil. Although the Bush Administration lifted our 1982 ban on Libyan oil importation in 2004 after Libya removed its weapons of mass destruction, our tumultuous relationship with Gaddafi and his regime continued.

With roughly 70 percent of Libya’s domestic oil production nationalized, Gaddafi had far too much control over Libyan oil. It’s not an easy position to be in to be forced to “support” a regime that’s harming its residents. With the Libyan Interim National Council (NTC), we might gain more access to Libya’s natural resources, which may not be huge and would clearly come at a price, would help us distribute our dependence on foreign oil.

The price of security…

However, foreign oil dependence per region can only be minimized so much because we still have an ever-increasing demand to reach. Regardless of our new and improved relations with Libya, the U.S. will still have to rely on nations that are constantly experiencing “political instability,” as it’s termed. Our desire for oil and the energy security it dictates will lead us to support and put in power a government that may not be in the peoples’/nation’s best interest.

Prior to our involvement, we haven’t always sought to understand the full scope of the conflict and the implication of our actions – our focus on oil is too overpowering. Instead of funding research for alternative energy production, we’ll fund political groups, some of which may even be quite subversive, that support our interests, or our desire for oil or markets, just as we did in South America and some Middle Eastern nations. We’ve engaged in a cycle that we just can’t end.

But have we learned our lesson? Or will we ever?

Putting the NTC in power couldn’t lessen our access to Libyan oil and the price we pay for it anymore than continuing to support Gaddafi could. So the question remains: when we are faced with a regime that provides us with what we want, appeals to what we value most, will we be able to resist? Or will we support that group regardless of whether they are best for the people they will come to control? Like children fighting over a cookie, I still just can’t see us supporting the kid that gives us the smaller piece in return.

Katherine Mayer is a student in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at kjm246@cornell.edu. The Missing Link: Policy appears on appears on Thursdays.

Original Author: Katherine Mayer